When Sounders FC lost its captain on Saturday after Brad Evans went down with a contusion on his right calf, Head Coach Sigi Schmid was able to turn to his bench and call on a player with World Cup experience and nearly 300 matches in Liga MX to his credit when he brought on Gonzalo Pineda.
The 31-year-old Seattle newcomer came into the match in the 29th minute and restored order to the midfield after Evans wasn’t able to shake his knock and Toronto FC’s Jermain Defoe had a two-goal outburst.
“I thought Gonzalo did well for us. Obviously he is still new to the team a little bit. He still needs to gain a bit on his fitness, but I thought his passing today helped us,” Schmid said after the match. “His vision is good. We felt he was the right guy to go with because we felt there was space to play, and we were possessing the ball, so we thought that was the right decision.”
Pineda came to Sounders FC during training camp and quickly latched on to his new teammates. However, an ankle injury late in the preseason had him behind the rest of the team in terms of fitness when the season started. Even still, he was able to contribute for 61 minutes, keeping Toronto FC from adding to its lead and also helping Seattle keep possession from a feisty Toronto defense.
While entering the game on a moment’s notice because of an injury in a match that Seattle was trailing wasn’t the ideal situation to make his debut, Pineda was happy to see the field.
“That was difficult, but it was also a good challenge to me. The team, for the first 20 minutes, was playing very good,” Pineda said. “In the second half, I think it was good, also, but we were unlucky because sometimes the crosses need to be more effective and more sharp. We could have won or tied the game.”
While he was able to help Seattle maintain its strength on the ball, the end result, a 2-1 defeat to Toronto, leaves him wanting more.
“I’m supposed to enjoy my first game, but it’s hard when we lost,” Pineda said. “It’s my first game and I’m glad to be here in MLS and of course I’m so glad to be here with the Sounders. It’s a great team with a great crowd and I’m very happy about that.”
Evans’ availability for Saturday’s match against the Montreal Impact is unclear, but if Schmid needs to turn to Pineda, he will do so with the confidence of the rest of the team.
Pineda’s midfield partner for the match was Osvaldo Alonso, who paired with Evans more often than not over the last five seasons. When Pineda came on, he made sure the team didn’t miss a beat, something Alonso credits to the relationships he has already built with his teammates.
“He’s a good player and we have a lot of confidence with him that we can play good soccer,” Alonso said.